"I don't buy into the war. I think it's all good," said Joe Barr, industry viewer and contributing editor at LinuxWorld.com, concerning Linux interfaces, "There are a lot of Linux users that don't buy into either one."
But Linux could benefit from added desktop enablement, Barr admits.
"Right now, there's a shortage of classic end-user applications. You cannot buy the same range or type of Linux apps for the general desktop," he said. "There's a tremendous repertoire of Linux apps, but they are specialty items."
Sun's StarOffice desktop suite, now available for Linux, has not allayed that problem. "StarOffice was too monolithic for Linux fans," said Barr. But, he added, parsed-down open source apps based on StarOffice may soon gain ground.
For now, Barr indicated, the server will remain the locus of Linux.
"Most announcements still are for servers. We're going to clustering, high availability, and the like. Very few things are for the desktop," he said.
The new kernel, which increases scalability and multiprocessor support, may have a role in this continued emphasis. "The new kernel is good for servers," Barr said, and has better addressed the area of security. Barr notes that a new "stateful" firewall, built into the kernel, is particularly welcome. Caldera, SuSE, and other Linux OS providers will be showing new system capabilities at the New York show.
The gap between commercial Linux promoters and noncommercial Linux adherents should not be overstated, or thought of as new, said Jean S. Bozman, an IDC analyst.
"The dynamic is similar to what happened in the early days of Unix, where the advocates called the commercial sides 'the suits' and the commercial side called the Unix advocates 'sandal wearers,' Bozman said.
Linux software installations on existing software still surpass new bundlings, she said.
"People started running Linux on already installed servers," Bozman said. She estimates that new, fully loaded Linux server shipments will vault from $841 million in 1999 to $5.1 billion in 2004. In 2004, Linux would account for about 5.8 percent of a server market projected at $87.9 billion.
While the big system vendors have resources, Linux-only corporations will continue to have some advantages, Bozman suggested. "For VA Linux, for example, Linux is not an option; it is the focus. They have preconfigured combos [that meet users' needs]. They've gotten into the fact that they have to help the user load the software." In fact, at the LinuxWorld Expo, operating system packages that include system management utilities -- and out-of-the-box Web server configurations -- will become more of the norm.